A Look Back at a Lesson in Culture Courtesy of Google Maps -Part 1
Ryan Buddenhagen, February 13, 2012
When Google was introducing the Street View feature of its Maps platform in Germany, culture was at the root of its initial resistance. This is yet another example of technology and the internet challenging cultural norms and existing laws in new ways. German culture largely tends to be more private than others, particularly US culture. This can be seen throughout society, but most applicable for tech companies and search engine optimization experts is how it impacts their online activity. As such, Germans had one of the lowest adoption rates of social networking sites in Europe during the initial years of their existence. But in time, Germans have joined social sites in great numbers, once the technology and its impact on privacy was understood and accepted it appears.
The same trend was seen with Street View, as there was great initial resistance to the idea of private homes being represented digitally for all to see. From businesses to private homes and communities, people were simply unsure about this literal and figurative uncharted territory relating to digital privacy. The immediate concern was personal privacy and safety as there was a belief that online representations of such properties could be used by individuals for break-ins and other illegal activity. Individuals who did not want their property to be digitally represented could opt-out, but once people saw the technology wasn't overly intrusive and used for malice, it was slowly accepted.
This has serious implications for companies utilizing geo-targeting and Google Maps in general for international SEO purposes. Optimized business sites show up in SERPs and Google Maps, and now customers can walk the streets and look at the restaurant or shop itself in many cities of Germany, assisting in customer product or service research. Customers can thus engage with the businesses even further, looking at the building, signing, and the neighborhood it finds itself in, among other elements.
Further, a new area of marketing potential has emerged. According to a Time Magazine/Worldcrunch article, the service is popular among Germans looking to rent or buy property, or even visit a specific area, which presents additional opportunities to target traffic. This is an initial step in the German market, but the impact that Google Maps with Street View has on the SEO and paid search industries will only evolve further.